Music

Savage lyricism, disco beats and varied experimentation. Despite its eclectic genre mashing, Heads Up is Warpaint’s best work yet

“It’s important for me, to create a world for myself. That’s how I see it,” says Jenny Lee Lindberg, Warpaint’s bassist/vocalist. If an album were a world, Heads Up would be the one I’d want to live on.

Often described as mystic, witchy and free-spirited, the unconventionally democratic band operates on an alluringly united mindset; the cover of Heads Up shows them holding hands, and By Your Side repeats the refrain “got my girls, I’m not alone. Love you for days, I’m not alone. You’re the place that I belong”.

warpaint
With meticulous production, tight genre-shifts and unrivalled lyricism, Twin Heads could be Warpaint’s greatest offering yet.

Their lyrics in Heads Up float by spiritedly like semi-formed observations, while staying active, emotive and almost gruesome. The vocalist screams out on opening track Whiteout, “You know what I want! To rip it open, and pull it out!” describing ripping out the secrets from the mind of someone unknown to us.

They probably get associated as ‘witchy’ because of their forward expression of sacrificial desires, backed with shadowy sonics. See: “I’ve got a friend with a melody that will kill, she’ll eat you alive” (Disco//Very) and “‘cause I got a knife to cut out the memories” (Love Is To Die).

In their self-titled album they were lyrically love-centric, composed primarily of jamming with the aim to stay sonically minimalist. They reunited in January this year and reached out to producer Jacob Bercovici, who worked on their debut EP Exquisite Corpse in 2009. For the first time, the band recorded alone and in pairs.

“Everybody was allowed to have their space, time and creative freedom with songs,” says Lindberg. “Everybody got to sit and go, ‘What do I want to do on this?… How can I make it the best?’”

Their goal was also to capture their live show’s propulsiveness, as Emily Kokal (vox, guitar) details:“We’ve always had this really jammy, high-energy live show compared to some of our records.”

While most albums take a bit of listening to get into, Heads Up’s openers are immediately hypnotising. Whiteout is full of great syncopating guitars and upbeat drumbeats, while By Your Side is darker and more electronically focused.

The sole reason it needs repeat listens is because there are so many fleeting idiosyncrasies that can be rediscovered: the sliding sound left in the recording of a guitarist trying to find a note which trickles into a transitional rhythm or the slow building synth drones, glitchy, tech scratches and a retro horror film-esque spiralling piano scale.

“We definitely pay attention to detail—and there is a lot going on in our music,” says Theresa Wayman (vox, guitar). “Especially with all of our brains wanting to contribute to everything. The songs can get really full right away.”

New Song is unapologetically powerpop with disco drums so tight they could give Carly Rae Jepson a run for her money. It does feel a little jarring at first but you’ll soon revel in the line: “I have never felt this strong, dancing to you all night long.”  The song was conceived when Lindberg was tasked with writing a tune immediately after hearing another song: the Daft Punk, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers collab Get Lucky.

“That song made me really happy, so I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to try and put a little Nile Rodgers feel to it.’ His part is like a rhythm guitar, but I’m playing it on the bass. I got a disco beat playing. And so New Song sounds nothing like Get Lucky, but that’s what I wrote literally after I was given that assignment.”

Things slow down in Dre, a spacious, dreamy and cruisey homage to the rapper , bringing light vocals glued together with a reverbed snare. Today Dear winds things up with a rare moment of total vulnerability, the LP’s most stripped back track, frmring a powerful fade out to the album.

Prior to the album, the bands members had all been working on their own projects. “The practice and the meditation of creating music by yourself influences and strengthens your vision,” says Mozgawa. “When you come into a group situation again, you have a better understanding of the things that you like and you don’t like.”

If you wanted to cover every genre and movement that Warpaint effortlessly imprinted into this LP, it could fill a page: brit-pop, art rock, post-punk, RnB, psych, trip hop, alt folk etc etc. For a band to encompass so much without sounding messy, overcooked or lacking flow is an example of intellect, maturity and decades of hard work.

Heads Up is out now.